How to Strengthen Your Inner Resolve with Yoga Nidra
Yoga teacher and psychologist Kelly McGonigal describes a yoga nidra practice that can help you strengthen your sankalpa (resolve).
As I mentioned in Inspired Intention: Your Guide to Creating a Sankalpa, the yoga tradition offers a refreshing alternative to the New Year’s resolution: the practice of sankalpa, or resolve. A sankalpa practice starts from the radical premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma. All you need to do is focus your mind, connect to your most heartfelt desires, and channel the divine energy within.
Once you’ve identified your sankalpa, the following yoga nidra (yogic sleep) practice can help you strengthen your resolve and awaken to your true nature. This practice has been adapted from the teachings of Richard Miller, PhD, author of Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga.
Choose a Pose
Set the stage for yoga nidra by choosing a quiet place to practice. Come into a comfortable and relaxed position, such as shavasana (corpse pose). You can also practice yoga nidra in an upright seated position or supported restorative yoga pose.
Set an Intention
Begin by setting the intention to give this practice your whole-hearted attention and to stay awake and aware rather than drift into identification with a dream state. You may experience dream-like phenomena, but it is possible to maintain a witness awareness throughout such states.
Connect to Your Inner Resource of Pure Being
Your inner resource is the source of peace and happiness that exists within you and can’t truly be disturbed. Spend a few moments connecting to the sense of fullness and peace that exists in this moment.
Tune into Your Heartfelt Desire
Welcome your sankalpa, the full heartfelt desire, into your conscious awareness. State it in words, and allow yourself to feel its resonance in your body.
Try Body Sensing
Start to rotate your attention around the body. Start from the sense organs of the mouth, nose, ears, and eyes, and work your way down the arms, hands, trunk, hips, legs, and feet. You don’t need to dwell for long on any given part of the body; allow your attention to linger briefly at each location, and then move on to the next. Notice any sensations that are present, and notice who is noticing the sensations.
Proceed to Breath and Energy Sensing
Now bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe in and breathe out. Sense the flow of the breath in and out of your body. Notice the sensations of energy flowing in the body as you breathe. Notice any other flows of energy present, and experience the full energy body.
Embody the Heartfelt Desire
Bring your sankalpa back to mind, but this time, really bring it into your body and sensations. When you are fully connected to the desire, how does it feel in your body? Are there images, sounds, or smells that can express and support your intention? From this feeling of embodying the heartfelt desire, ask yourself what it would be like to live in the full awareness and strength of the desire. How would you act in the world? If there are specific actions you would like to take, see yourself and feel yourself taking those actions.
How Long Should You Practice?
You can repeat this cycle several times, cycling between the state of pure being, stating your sankalpa, sensing the body, and bringing the sankalpa into the body and senses. With each cycle, the mind becomes better able to rest in awareness, and you can spend a little more time in each stage. Finish the practice by resting in the knowledge of the truth of your heartfelt desire.
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, teaches yoga, meditation and psychology at Stanford University. She is the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, as well as the author of Yoga for Pain Relief and The Willpower Instinct.